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The Gregorian Singers

Rappresentatione di anima, e di corpo:
The First Opera Ever*


On February 28 and March 2, 2014, The Gregorian Singers, under the direction of Monte Mason and in collaboration with Phillip Rukavina and the Twin Cities Lute Co-op, Gerald Hoekstra and the Early Music Ensembles of St. Olaf College, Jane Skinner Peck and the dancers of Dance Revels Moving History, and the University of Minnesota Opera Department, presented performances of the first extant opera, Rappresentatione di anima e di corpo, by Emilio de’ Cavalieri (1550-1602). These performances, staged using Cavalier’s original directions as a guide, featured soprano Maria Jette as “Anima,” tenor Nick Chalmers as “Corpo,” and countertenor Patrick Terry as “Intelletto.”


Rappresentatione di anima e di corpo (Play of Soul and Body) is considered by many scholars of early music to be the first work - at least, the first surviving work - that can be regarded as a true opera.* While some have classified Rappresentatione as the first oratorio, the fact that Cavalieri instructed it to be staged, with a spoken prologue, scenery, costumes and dances, supports its classification as an opera. The Gregorian Singers and their collaborators presented a staged version of the work with soloists, orchestra, chorus and dancers, using Cavalieri’s extant directions as a guide. The performance also featured period instruments, including lutes, viola da gamba, portative organ, viols, recorders, and wind instruments, all in accordance with authentic musical practices of the early seventeenth century. The Twin Cities performance was made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.


We hope Rappresentatione will be just the first in a series of Baroque opera performances to be presented by The Gregorian Singers and their collaborating performers and organizations.


Photo: Merry Whipple


To learn more about this opera and these performances, download a program by clicking below: